Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Mery Spolsky – Sorry From the Mountain

We check in with Polish pop again, and are not sorry at all…


[Video]
[7.14]

Katherine St Asaph: Perhaps like Polish pop’s answer to Grimes, and exactly like if Gwen Stefani’s reintroduction to herself had PC Music involved. Except “Sorry from the Mountain” is more lacerating in its lyric (“This depression will probably go away on Friday, when I drink coffee grounds and boiling water”) and far more polymorphic, exciting, and non-obvious in its production. Really, it just makes me happy that I can write the words “clear happy hardcore influence” in the advanced year of 2021 and only be 80% full of shit.
[8]

Vikram Joseph: This is chaotic and neon-pink, decorated in ravey synths and with a burbling, roiling undercurrent. There are clear PC Music signifiers, especially on the playful verses, although Mery Spolsky has a hard time carving out her own niche in this crowded field, and even with the assistance of Google Translate the lyrics remain fairly inscrutable. “Sorry From The Mountain” is fun though, in much the same way as someone covered in glitter and high on pills that you spend ten minutes talking to at a festival is fun — you don’t remember their name or what they looked like, but they just, you know, had a really good energy.
[6]

John Seroff: Mery Spolsky’s theatrical hyperpop girl-power bop “Sorry from the Mountain” is accompanied by a pastel-colored video attempting to show just how you’re meant to dance to it. Spolsky’s suggestion is apparently “very slowly,” a fittingly contradictory answer for a lean, over-caffeinated song that relentlessly pitches speedy, unpredictable and interesting decisions. Marketing a pop hit with Polish lyrics in America is probably a non-starter, but is it unreasonable to hope for a footwork remix?
[7]

Alfred Soto: It can’t still, nor can Mery Spolsky. Beats double against each other, arranged more thickly than on prime Grimes. The rap-singing is compelling enough to imbue that already mysterious title with more mystery.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: A beat that feels (but doesn’t sound) like a jackhammer grounds a smart rapped/sung vocal from a singer who sounds like she’s getting one over, and someone should send this to the mood board for Dua Lipa’s next album. 
[7]

Jessica Doyle: My one complaint about this otherwise fun ride is that Spolsky’s delivery is a little too relaxed on the chorus; if she’s relying on the instrumental to provide the energy I wish she’d put in more space with it front and center, as she does around 2:30 to provide the transition to the downslope. So, yes, for once I am saying I’d like it to be longer.
[7]

Juana Giaimo: Recently Poland passed a nearly-total abortion ban. Only a month before that, Argentina legalized abortion (becoming available in free public hospitals and therefore giving the change to have a safe abortion not only afford expensive illegal procedures). To finally achieve that, the whole country spoke about abortion for more than two years: friends distanced from each other, families fought, celebrities spoke against or in favor and many female-empowerment songs were released. The music video of “Sorry from the Mountain” features women in front of futuristic churches dressed in disguises similar to The Handmaid’s Tale outfits and showing a red lightning bolt, all of which have been featured in Polish protests against the abortion ban. The lyrics (I had to rely on Google Translate) talk about how girls need to believe in themselves and about falling in love with the confident side of yourself, but it also has some witty lines with a sense of humor that shows there is hope. The hyperactive music is full of energy — it tells these are girls that ready to fight. But when you realized that it was released in October and how things turned out later, it becomes a devastating song. I know that because abortion was going to be legalized in Argentina in 2018, but the senators chamber didn’t pass the law. I remember the emptiness when I woke up the next day and that all these kind of songs stopped making any sense. And still, I know how important it’s to keep singing them.
[8]

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Shygirl – Tasty

Permanently moving onto the sidebar…


[Video]
[7.17]

Will Adams: In Shygirl’s hands, a simple formula of house chords, classic drum breaks and lust-in-this-club lyrics becomes otherworldly. Gone in under 2:30, it’s as effortless as UK garage can get.
[8]

Alfred Soto: The 2010s were a good year for UK pop house, as Katy B and MNEK can testify. The shimmering keyboard textures and Shygirl’s wind-blasted vocals on “Tasty” rank among those thrills.
[8]

John Seroff: Shygirl’s particular flavor of “JOCK JAMZ: now with ***f333lz***” hasn’t quite resonated with me (or with an American audience) yet, but once the right beat comes along, I am prepared to believe it’s just a matter of time. Not yet, though. 
[4]

Oliver Maier: The elastic stretch and snap of the breakbeats and Shygirl’s performance are the twin jolts of kinetic energy that keep “Tasty” in motion. As ever, her horniness is relayed with an air of remove; whether that’s intentional I’m not certain, but it’s emphasised by the vocal filtering and the circuitous feel of the rhyme scheme in the chorus. I don’t mind it! Shygirl’s clinical approach to getting freaky somehow feels more honest than a song that trips over itself to exude sensuality.
[8]

Leah Isobel: “Tasty” is much warmer than the rest of Shygirl’s work, and that exposes some of her limitations; her cool distance works when she’s doing steely trance or skewed hip-hop, but here her verses sound more like placeholders. But then she smirks her way through the line “would that be so bad?” and yep, I still like this.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: After seemingly thousands of tracks over the past decade designed to  evoke various house or UK garage classics, it’s nice to hear one  designed — in a world with any sense of quality — to become one.
[9]

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Parmalee x Blanco Brown – Just the Way

If they’d added “You Are” to the title they could’ve averaged at least two points higher


[Video]
[3.17]

John Seroff: Even before Morgan Wallen put his whole damn foot down his gullet, Nashville was already husting to make 2021 the year of a more integrated pop country landscape. A more savvy insider than me can split the percentage of impetus to be attributed to moral righteousness and to financial motivation, but my inner cynic believes no one in the post Lil Nas X-era will ever again be told that they can’t be country if they want to… especially if helps expand the demographic. One of the most outsize early examples of country’s sudden willingness for parity-with-benefits was Blanco Brown’s briefly inescapable “The Git Up.” Matching Brown with the deeply mediocre Parmalee for a twangy, extra-straight take on “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup” turned out to be a surefire route for a feel-good gold record and a panderingly multi culti video that is, in the words of one of its top YouTube commenters, “awesome content.” It’s the sort of song the Nashville machine will point out as a sign that the times they are a’changing. It’s also bland, patronizing and taking up space that should (and hopefully soon will) be reserved for better music.
[2]

Katherine St Asaph: Would it kill songwriters to come up with a song for someone special that sounds like something special? Parmalee and Blanco Brown have a goofy rapport that boosts this a bit, but nothing, whether details or sound, is any different than the last thousand country love songs. Point off for the parade-of-non-models video, glurge designed to conceal the fact that the industry doesn’t put these people in their other videos.
[5]

Al Varela: Okay, first some positives! I like how the video showcases a lot of variety as the targets of affection, including one person with vitiligo and even someone who I believe might be a trans woman? That’s awesome! I love seeing this kind of thing normalized! Shame that the song itself is fucking garbage in the most generic, flat, basic possible way, but hey, at least you tried! Just on the video though. You didn’t try at all on the song.
[3]

Samson Savill de Jong: At least this doesn’t fall in to the Meghan Trainor / Sir Mix-a-lot “positivity” trap by just replacing one arbitrary beauty standard with a different arbitrary beauty standard, avoiding comparisons with other women altogether. It’s still a cringey song (“never looked so hot” does not fit in to this song at all), and I don’t care for the sound of it at all (generic bro country shlock which would have had to do a lot to ever appeal to me) but it could’ve been a lot worse, which is the exact kind of ringing endorsement every artist craves.
[3]

Alfred Soto: With the video a model of twenty-first-century integration, “Just the Way” remains a memorandum of understanding instead of a song: every note as tightly proofread and fought over as a legal document. Parties representing Parmalee and Blanco Brown are pleased, sources say.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: I want to love this — the presence of Blanco Brown in the Country Airplay top 5 with this record, his first such visit, matters — but good lord, this is such a generic slice of “I love you just the way God made you”-core (which is the actual chorus). It could be Florida Georgia Line, or Rascal Flatts, or even fucking Dan + Shay. Brown’s vocal at least sweetens the pot just a little, but only a little. This song, unfortunately, is trash.
[3]

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Slayyyter – Troubled Paradise

We enjoy a bridge over troubled paradise…


[Video]
[5.86]

Will Adams: Most of Slayyyter’s output has been a love letter to bubblegum, whether channeling Britney (on many an occasion), fluffy Euro-pop or Carly Rae’s nostalgic take on the genre. On “Troubled Paradise,” there’s a clear effort to present herself, both with the upgraded video budget and more contemporary production from John Hill and Jordan Palmer. As is the case with first introductions, there are some missteps. The verses drag, mainly due to the sustained notes that highlight Slayyyter’s thin voice, and Hill and Palmer confuse grandness with aggressive reverb. But what works is enough: the “Into You” bass-throb, Catherine Slater’s ad-libs, and a driving, extended bridge that’s more than welcome in an era where most songs don’t even have one.
[6]

John Seroff: Slater’s XCX-lite audio and FHM video visuals may make for a more mainstream radio-friendly unit shifting package than her hyperpop contemporaries, but it’s hard to sincerely stan for something this essentially and perhaps intentionally disposable. Given her prior single was the unlistenable deep throat anthem “Throatzillaaa,” let’s call this a step in the right direction.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: The past year has destroyed my attention span, but it’s still amazing how every second of listening to this, I forget what happened in the song one second ago.
[3]

Alfred Soto: I hear no trouble and see no paradise: besides that hotstepping sequencer line, this is innocuous, anonymous electro-pop, and in that not charmless.
[6]

Austin Nguyen: Not as troubled as I’d like, but sleek, efficient synthpop nonetheless with its strutting pulse on familiar lyrical pressure points.
[7]

Aaron Bergstrom: Probably less than the sum of its parts, but those parts are “Flesh Without Blood,” “Somebody Loves You,” “Heart to Break,” and maybe “Northern Lights,” so it’s still pretty good.
[6]

Vikram Joseph: This plays like a highlights reel of 2010s electro-pop: the vocals and the gothy melodrama of the lyrics call back to True Romance-era Charli XCX, the heady synth propulsion is peak Carly Rae Jepsen (making me think of “Making The Most Of The Night” in particular), and it exerts a Scandi-pop gravity strong enough that you can almost see the aurora borealis. It briefly threatens to feel faintly ersatz, but its forward motion is relentless, and by the time it reaches the terminal velocity of the middle-eight it’s absolutely a superb song in its own right. If we can call this year the real start of the decade, then “Troubled Paradise” is the perfect bridge from the last.
[8]

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Mod Sun ft. Avril Lavigne – Flames

A dull flame of desire…


[Video]
[3.00]

Aaron Bergstrom: Basically Machine Gun Kelly’s Picture of Dorian Gray, “Flames” gets more and more unlistenable as it goes, meanwhile “Forget Me Too” is still out there in the world, inexplicably perfect. Turns out the formula doesn’t work every time.
[2]

Vikram Joseph: What in the Yungblud is going on here, and under what duress was Avril roped into this mess? There’s actually no way to review this song without sounding like your dad: so much shouting, so little to say, other than a barrage of fire-related metaphors (none of which are good, but the narcissist/arsonist line is especially heinous). Kill it with… oh, I won’t lower myself.
[3]

Alfred Soto: With vocals that function like buckets of water hurled on a just-lit firepit, “Flames” struggles to generate heat To listen to Avril Lavigne reduced to her singular skatergirl timbre while Mod Sun howls his bellybutton off is to welcome the flood.
[1]

John Seroff: I honestly never cared for Avril the first few times around, so I can’t pretend to be excited to encounter her on the hook of this would-be revival of pop screamo. Mod Sun’s moody sorta-kinda-rap howling and “Flames” surprisingly low energy don’t add much to the experience.
[3]

Will Adams: A curiously passionless duet from a pair who fit well into the genre given, respectively, a rapper who’s primed for the current emo revival and a beloved pop-rocker with a sk8er girl pedigree. The lyric approaches “Girl On Fire” levels of mixed metaphors, but hey, at least they didn’t rhyme it with “desire”…?
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: Point deducted because I can’t think of a good “flames on the side of my face” joke.
[1]

Julian Axelrod: Somehow the worst judge from Cooking on High got current fling/aesthetic aspiration Avril Lavigne on a faux-Matrix pop punk excavation that goes harder than anything Avril’s released since “Boyfriend.” If she’s happy, I’m happy!
[7]

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Digga D x AJ Tracey – Bringing It Back

Can they kick it?


[Video]
[5.83]

Samson Savill de Jong: Look any track that contains the bars “I locked up the food for the kids like Boris/And then I let it go like Rashford” has to end in the positive column. This is good though, both men have a tight and well-controlled flow and some solid rhymes, and I like the way they pass the mic back and forth; it feels like a real collaboration. There’s nothing that’s going to keep most people coming back, but it’s enjoyable while it’s on (especially if you like football puns, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed).
[7]

Scott Mildenhall: Currently in the Premier League you’ve got players with names including Maupay, Lookman and Chilwell, so surely Digga D can do better than that Peter Crouch line. To use an idiom he and Tracey might like, this is a bit of a Leeds United performance: a lot of running to variable effect. When it works it can be mesmerising, but by the end it can have led nowhere. That’s how “Bringing It Back” feels — not failing; Luke Ayling.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: A head-nodder of a beat, just so-so verses from Digga and AJ. Split the score down the middle, then.
[5]

Jeffrey Brister: It’s a great showcase of the performers’ technical skill, but the lack of switch-ups in their flows, combined with a limp chorus and too-long runtime (which, at only three minutes, might be a consequence of the chorus), makes it drag a bit too much in the back half.
[6]

John Seroff: Solid enough drill that bears all the standard wobbling bass signifiers, stuttering beats and two adroit (if monotone) flows jittering with internal rhymes. The lack of a clearly defined hook or any diversity in the tempo keeps this from really taking off but, once UK bars open again, I could see “Bringing It Back” being a springtime shout-along chorus of choice.
[6]

Andy Hutchins: Good drill beats either accentuate the performers or get out of their way or both; “Bringing It Back” is the sort of unremarkable soundscape that provides runway for both AJ and Digga to lean into flow-first deliveries of low-impact bars without much to festoon the proceedings. AJ’s cleverer — his dexterous Rashford and Bale references are highlights, though “Bale” as an ad-lib is not — and gets further tucked into his crouch (no Peter), so even his chicken shop order sounds fine. Digga, the rising rookie to AJ’s established vet, pales in comparison, his trademark energy lost in an attempt to trade bars with a better. Worse, the conceit of the track is nostalgia for flows that aren’t really even revived, and both men were better on their named antecedents.
[5]

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Yuuri – Dry Flower

Turning on our radio…


[Video][Website]
[5.64]

Andrew Karpan: A gorgeous, forlorn riff that transcends cheesiness, even when the drums kick in. An autumnal anthem that crunches like the leaves themselves. 
[7]

Austin Nguyen: Piano chords that melt like rays of sun through the wind-rustled thicket of guitar strums, leaving light with none of the heat. Yuuri is at times tender and soft-spoken under the falling leaves, elsewhere wrenched with how faded and cold memories have become, wondering where their warm and vivid colors went under water-cup synth stars during the bridge. The instrumental break is perfectly (even if predictably) placed, right before the guitar and drums pummel their way back for final-chorus catharsis — and Yuuri delivers: “Your voice, your face, your awkwardness” are still there, but he puts his hands up to the sky and lets it go for the wind to carry; all the “flowers that have yet to wilt.”
[8]

Tim de Reuse: Even for a genre where luxurious production is the price of entry, this is full-fat, buttery, indulgent instrumentation — it’s not trivial to get guitar tone with that magazine-gloss sheen on it! The  measured rise in temperature over the song’s five minutes lets you steep in the melancholy. Such a backdrop could’ve carried most any vocal performance; the one we get doesn’t need to chew the scenery as much as it does, but, hey, why be subtle?
[8]

Madi Ballista: “Dry Flower” is a perfectly functional J-rock ballad — which is fine, because I love a good bittersweet ballad — but while Yuuri brings a tremendous amount of emotion to his voice, I still find myself feeling a little underwhelmed. It’s a lovely listen, and the ebb and flow of the rhythm really pulls you along, following his wonderful voice. But the lyrics feel on the functional side, and it wears out its welcome by the four-minute mark. I think if the music were a little less understated and more dynamic, this track might have grabbed me more, but ultimately, it ends up sounding like every other heartfelt J-rock ballad out there.
[6]

Jeffrey Brister: There’s something about Japanese pop music — I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s like the songs, no matter how dated their source idiom, always manage to feel fresh and alive. This song is a perfect example: its sound is pure early-’00s US adult-alternative, but it avoids all of the over-singing or fussy arrangements that could mar songs of that time and place. What’s here is clean, straightforward, and performed with gusto, all without feeling like it’s trying too hard.
[8]

Rachel Saywitz: This kind of sappy, acoustic pop ballad has a tendency to elicit a kind of subconscious discomfort from me. Maybe it’s because Yuuri has a voice that stretches out each syllable of his longing, maybe it’s because the melody evokes nostalgic ballads of the past. Whatever it is, I can’t handle the pretty boy sadness right now. Give me something I can actually cry over, like a press release announcing Daft Punk’s breakup. 
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: Acoustic-based balladry that, once the drums kick in, sounds oddly like Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” melody-wise. I wish it didn’t. I also wish this didn’t remind me of John Mayer at his most keening.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: A ’90s pop-rock radio programmer’s dream: a song like Lisa Loeb’s “Stay,” sung in a rough-ish folk-rocker voice, and all you need to do is chop a minute or two off for the edit. (Though it sounds like you could cut three.)
[6]

Samson Savill de Jong: “Wake Me Up When September ends” except with limp instrumentation that doesn’t build to anything and without any emotional resonance. 
[2]

Alfred Soto: The plaintive tones compensate for a tune that, I dunno, Uncle Kracker would’ve written in 2003.
[4]

John Seroff: Someone somewhere said the words “Ed Sheeran, but in Japanese” and that incantation found life here. More power to all involved but I’ll be ordering off a different menu.
[3]

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

Dua Lipa – We’re Good

We begin the week with Aaron’s curse for these times…


[Video][Website]
[4.31]

Aaron Bergstrom: From Ted Cruz to Dua herself, I want every brazen COVID vacation to feel exactly like this song: You thought it was going to be a fun little burst of tropical sunshine, but it turns out to be boring and pointless and weirdly depressing and you can’t quite figure out why.
[2]

Vikram Joseph: You kind of have to laugh at Dua Lipa responding to criticism about her various mid-pandemic getaways by releasing a tropical island jam. In fairness, it’s thoughtful of her to bring something back for us — “We’re Good” is a quirky, disorientating little blast of winter sun, which would have sounded jarring on the Future Nostalgia tracklist but which sounds pretty good in its own right. It’s an easy song to pick at — the intro echoes Lana Del Rey’s “Doin’ Time” cover, the chorus vocal melody is remarkably similar (one presumes unintentionally) to that of a Magnetic Fields song, and “we’re not meant to be like sleeping and cocaine” is a metaphor that makes less sense the more you think about it. But, rather like waking up to watch the England cricket team play under a warm subcontinental sun — one of the little things that has got me through this winter lockdown — the primary appeal of “We’re Good” is that it feels like something beamed in from another timeline, so I guess we should just be grateful to our globetrotting protagonist for that.
[7]

Austin Nguyen: Tropical Lipa strikes again — this time, for a placid bossa nova kiss off that, of all drugs to reference, believes “sleeping and cocaine” would be the best pair of words to encapsulate relationship dissonance (when, in the proper doses, they might actually be fine together?). Also here for round two: the friends-by-association, but still unnecessary Vocal Quirk Lipa (gratefully sparse and saved for last), with all her belts and cracks that don’t add nearly as much drama as she thinks to a chorus that feels more like a build-up to the arrival point rather than the event itself. The sunglasses are on, the windows down, but we’re meh at most.
[5]

Andrew Karpan: Lipa’s line of refried-Madonna anthems were a curious balm at the pandemic’s start. The tunes were digitized fossils of a misremembered past, often literally so, but they were also coming from a time before the beginning of the ongoing mass death event, when the dates of missed concerts would pass by with a fearful, confusing lull. But after too many listens, the woozy synths on “Levitating” sounded more and more like ambulance sirens and by the year’s end, the record was a safely forgotten artifact of the 2020 that was planned, that could have been and that your insurer will not cover. By the time Lipa salvages this wonky take on a “thank u, next”-type song from the cutting room floor of that last shot at mass communication, its clunky weight is almost unbearable, a spiel of nonsense words whose most interesting milestone is a confusing metaphor involving the impact of cocaine on sleep. (Reports the Daily Mirror: “The New Rules hitmaker has never spoken about drugs before.”) In the song, she sings about the liberation of being able to leave someone without making a very big deal about it, of the joviality of feeling nothing. Ah, but I feel too much. 
[3]

Lauren Gilbert: Why is this a single when “If It Ain’t Me” exists?
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Why is Dua Lipa singing a sludgy mid-tempo song? We want uptempo faux-disco from you, Dua, not this bowlful of mealy-mouthed meh. Her worst single by furlongs.
[2]

Scott Mildenhall: Is it temerity, complacency or obliviousness that has led to this dead horse of a song about not flogging a dead horse being flogged? Its patchwork of ideas — mostly good, entirely elevated by the chorus — is almost as clumsily contrived as its most attention-grabbing lyric. It being a year on, the new edition should have just been called Nostalgia; if you really want to feel this moment, end it like you should.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Squeaking over strummed parts, Dua Lipa can’t awaken this melodic nullity, released only because she’s a star and yet would have got her nowhere as a first single.
[3]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: In the early days of the pandemic, especially because Dua Lipa was one of the first stars to release her album during lockdown, the brightness and vim of Future Nostalgia‘s disco landscape felt like the freshest, most exciting possible take on pop. It’s been a little under a year since the album’s initial release and — to put it lightly — things have changed. Between “Don’t Start Now,” “Physical,” “Break My Heart,” “Hallucinate,” “Levitating,” “Levitating ft. DaBaby,” “Levitating (The Blessed Madonna Remix),” “Un Dia (One Day),” “Fever,” “Prisoner,” and “Future Nostalgia” itself (which was a promotional single), I can’t help but feel a little exhausted before even listening to “We’re Good.” (And that’s saying something: I ordinarily love when pop stars re-release albums to sneak on more singles.) The song itself doesn’t do much to combat my feelings before even listening to it; it’s serviceable and certainly not bad, but probably the weakest of all of the singles associated with the Future Nostalgia: The Moonlight Edition. Dua, darling, you’ve performed marvelously throughout this whole album cycle, and brought so many people so much joy. Now is time to let a good thing end before it starts to rot. 
[5]

John Seroff: “We’re Good”s lyrics point the way towards solo recovery from a relationship that’s run its course but its Titanic-by-way-of-Lanthimos video reads to me as sly commentary by Lipa and her team about the callous nature of pop consumption habits and her unwillingness to be so quickly digested. Fair play; along with the superior “Fever,” “Good” is definitely among the stronger bonus tracks on her revamped Future Nostalgia LP, all tripping scansion over trap-trop production. Unfortunately it pales next to the rest of the leaner and far superior original’s playlist, and sounds all the more mediocre in comparison.
[6]

Edward Okulicz: While I was as onboard the “omg Future Nostalgia is amazing, I love you Dua Lipa” train as anyone, I wouldn’t even lift another single off it to put this out as a B-side, let alone re-release the album. There’s no effortless sleekness here, and the chorus is an awkward mess of syllables you can’t lose yourself in. Part of it reminds of of “Blur” by Britney Spears, too, but I’d not stretch to “good” at any point.
[4]

Will Adams: Dua, “That Kind of Woman” was right. There. Snark aside, “We’re Good” understandably attempts to expand the Future Nostalgia world outside of the ersatz disco-pop that by the end of 2020 had started to wear thin. i just don’t know if the way to approach that was by emulating “Harleys In Hawaii.”
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: The least interesting major pop star in a decade continues to exist.
[4]

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

Bonus Tracks for Week Ending February 21, 2021

Saturday, February 20th, 2021

Pale Waves – Easy

About 124 results (0.30 seconds)…


[Video][Website]
[7.00]

Samson Savill de Jong: What happens when goths are happy? Pale Waves came through with an aesthetic of angsty teens with angsty teen lyrics, but a backing track of bright instrumentation that didn’t let the gloom linger. Since their debut album (ft. great singles and… meh deep cuts), band leader and frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie has got herself a girlfriend and become a lot more happy with herself and the world. This song, and the album, is essentially a love letter to her girlfriend, and since the instrumentation was never too downbeat to begin with, it’s not a jarring shift like it could have been. Indeed the song still sounds great, with all the elements that worked last time, though I don’t think the lyrics are quite as strong. My favourite Pale Waves songs were so specific, with little details that painted a vivid picture of what Heather was going through. Here, the lyrics are suitably melodramatic (even if they’re happy, a goth can’t be understated) but they’re also cliched, unable to break out of general terms to show why this girl in particular makes loving so easy. Still, it’s a solid Pale Waves single, and their solid singles are still a step above.
[8]

Jeffrey Brister: I’ve checked in on Pale Waves over the past few years, and every time I do, they just get more appealing. For me, “Easy” approaches the apex. Heather Baron-Gracie’s voice just fits this sound so perfectly. Her vocals delicately sit on top of the dense and layered arrangement full of twinkling synths and acoustic guitar, and sink to the middle during the luminous, pulsing chorus — a thrilling 80’s/90’s synthesis. And those mushy, sincere-but-not-corny lyrics? I’m in love.
[9]

Alfred Soto: Although working the same Breakfast Club meets t.A.T.u. sound as Chvrches, Pale Waves put more urgency into the guitars, and the vocals register as if something were at stake. 
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: They look emo-goth — think peak-era Alternative Press, cf. Evanescence — but sound like the last Paramore album. (Talk about cognitive dissonance.) Unfortunately, they don’t have anywhere near Hayley Williams’s songwriting prowess. I mean, “loving you is easy”? C’mon.
[4]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: What if instead of nostalgia for 1980s synthpop or 2010s maximalism, you took a second to mine the pop-rock of the early 2000s? What if you mixed the songwriting prowess of Taylor Swift with the synth verve of Dagny, and dropped it in the sonic landscape of Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne and Michelle Branch? What if you could hit the romantic highs that Katy Perry hit in “Teenage Dream” and CRJ did in “I Really Like You”? What if you made it gay? (Like, really, really gay?) And what if the happiest song in 2021 was also the one that sounded the saddest?
[9]

Joshua Lu: The alternative pop rock sound brings to mind teen drama movies of yesteryear, inviting all kinds of summery and vaguely happy memories that are dampened by a flat delivery. The chorus is all push, with not enough vocal modulations to really sell the rolling instrumental or the uplifting lyrics.
[5]

Edward Okulicz: At their best, Pale Waves make me feel something like nostalgia for an age that never truly came nor fully retreated — but in my head canon, this music ruled the world for a time, and “Easy” sounds like it still does. Heather Baron-Gracie’s personality animates the cliches, and the sweep into the chorus lifts me from the ground into the air every time. 
[8]

Will Adams: Loving this is easy. The verses sparkle like ’00s-era The Matrix productions, the chorus bursts with synth pulse in the style of “Style” and both sections are tethered by that crucial minor fourth chord in the pre-chorus. All those choices combined are what justify the cheesy lines (“You help me to believe!”). Heather Baron-Gracie gives into the sincerity, cynicism breaking down with each crack of her voice, and the result is a headrush of cushy feelings.
[8]

Vikram Joseph: Nothing wrong with a pivot to early-00s guitar-pop — there are few things as exhilarating as the crisp, wide-open guitar chords and exquisitely-wrought emotional turmoil of genre high-points like “Mobile” or “Pieces Of Me”, songs that can render you adolescent again in an instant. It would seem a natural fit for Pale Waves, whose debut album was the stuff of teen movies and heady crushes, all heart-bursting synth-pop and high angst. And yet “Easy” is a frustrating thing, a song with so much raw potential but which chooses the wrong turn at every crossroads. The production is so compressed and restrictive — the guitars are processed like synths, the synths get lost behind the vocals, and the vocals just sound bad. And Pale Waves’ melodies, which flowed forth so naturally on My Mind Makes Noises, seem to desert them just before the chorus — set up to soar, it flops to ground like a deflated balloon, the vocal melody too monotonous and the chord progression bafflingly, maddeningly identical to the verse. The formula works better on other tracks on the album, but “Easy” is more let-down than Let Go.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Text exchange with my boyfriend: “Just thinking of you.” “That’s sweet.” “Admittedly, the thought was ‘oh no, I wonder what Katherine thinks about [this new Pale Waves album]. Presented without endorsement.” My brand precedes me, and predictably(?), I do endorse it. His beef: “Easy” and songs like it are blatant, pandering grabs at nostalgia — in this case, the radio pop-rock of 2001 or so — at the expense of anything else. But unfortunately, I like being pandered to, so I guess I’m part of the problem; I would have loved a thousand more songs exactly like “Easy” back then, so what’s wrong with a thousand more now? The key: These recreations never really sound like the major names — the Avrils and Michelles in this case — so much as the smaller hits, the forgotten tracks, the follow-the-leaders, stuff like Hepburn or Kim Ferron or I Nine, or, an order of magnitude more popular, The Corrs. (Or, OK, “All You Wanted,” mostly the guitar tone.) Back then, people criticized how they strained to hit every single note and beat of the going sound; these days, that makes them exemplars of form. Not even a fucking Journey reference can ruin that.
[7]